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Dozens killed in militant raid on village in western Niger

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Nigerien army officers inspect a car belonging to the French aid group ACTED, after an attack by militants, in the Kouré Reserve, about 60 km from Niamey, in Niger, on August 21, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Suspected militants have shot dead more than three dozen civilians, including several women and children, in a flashpoint region of western Niger, local sources say.

The AFP news agency, citing a local official, reported that the massacre occurred in the village of Darey-Daye in the Tillaberi region on Monday afternoon. The assailants "arrived on motorbikes" in the area as people were working in the fields.

"The toll is very high — there were 37 dead, including four women and 13 children," the official said.

A local journalist also described the attack as "very bloody."

"They found people in the fields and shot at anything that moved," the journalist said.

The latest massacre comes amid a dangerous escalation in attacks across Tillaberi, which borders neighboring militancy-riddled Mali. Darey-Daye was already reeling from a bloody assault on March 15, when militants killed at least 66 people in attacks on the village and on vehicles of shoppers returning from the weekly market in the town of  Banibangou. On January 2, at least 100 people were killed in attacks on two villages in the Mangaize district of Tillaberi, a region that has borne the brunt of the crisis.

The latest deaths bring the unofficial death toll from militant attacks in western Niger since the start of the year to over 450.

Niger, which lies in the heart of the arid Sahel region of West Africa, is struggling with militancy, which has spilled over from Mali and Nigeria.

Terrorist groups, linked to al-Qaeda and Daesh, have strengthened their foothold across the Sahel, making large swathes of territory ungovernable and stoking local ethnic violence, especially in Mali and Burkina Faso, despite a military intervention by France.

The terrorist outfits have used central and northern Mali as a launch pad for growing numbers of attacks across the Sahel region, especially on neighbors Niger and Burkina Faso.

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